Afghan authorities ensure that Afghan territory will not be used against Pakistan; Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Mumtaz Zahra Spokesperson ministry of foreign affairs.

Islamabad, The Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov visited Pakistan on 29-30 May 2024. In Islamabad, he called on acting President Yousuf Raza Gillani and Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and held in-depth talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar.

The visit afforded an opportunity to the two sides to undertake comprehensive review of the state of bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and global developments. The two sides reaffirmed commitment to further strengthen bilateral strategic relations and broaden the scope of cooperation in all areas of mutual interest including trade, investment, energy, security and defence, education, climate action and regional connectivity. They also agreed to enhance parliamentary exchanges, strengthen cultural cooperation and promote people-to-people exchanges, including between students, academia and businesspersons.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dar and Foreign Minister Bayramov discussed bilateral cooperation at multilateral fora and regional and global developments including the situation in Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

On the occasion of the ‘Vesak Day’, commemorating Lord Buddha’s birth, a symposium titled “From Gandhara to the World” was organized this week at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The event brought together foreign delegates, including at the Ministerial level, prominent Buddhist monks and scholars on Buddhism and interfaith understanding. The symposium showcased Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage and underscored the importance of inter-faith harmony.

It explored the dimensions of Gandharan heritage that emerged over two thousand years ago in the northwest of Pakistan; the importance of building bridges and understanding between different communities; celebrating the shared values, and working together for a more peaceful world.

The Fourth Round of Pakistan-Greece Bilateral Political Consultations was held on 29 May 2024 in Athens, Greece. Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe), Ambassador Shafqat Ali Khan, led the Pakistan delegation while the Director General for Political Affairs, Ambassador Roussos Koundouros, led the Greek side. The two sides agreed to further advance high-level dialogue and cooperation.

The sixth round of the Pakistan-Hungary Bilateral Political Consultations was held on 27 May 2024 in Budapest, Hungary. Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe), Ambassador Shafqat Ali Khan led the Pakistan delegation while the Deputy State Secretary, Ambassador Lazlo Varadi, led the Hungarian side. The two sides agreed to work together on maintaining a positive trajectory in bilateral relations and exploring new areas of cooperation.

On 29 May 2024, Pakistan and Saint Lucia formally established diplomatic ties at a ceremony held at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York. The agreement to establish diplomatic relations was signed by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Munir Akram, and his counterpart from Saint Lucia, Ambassador Menissa Rambally, signed the Joint Communiqué on behalf of the respective countries.

Over the last three years, Pakistan has established diplomatic relations with Palau, Kiribati, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts & Nevis, and the Commonwealth of Dominica. This decision reflects Pakistan’s firm commitment to enhance its diplomatic outreach and expand cooperation with countries around the globe.

The Indian authorities’ campaign to crush dissent in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) remains unabated. Confiscation of the properties is an ugly facet of this campaign. Earlier this week, the properties including lands and a shop of two more Kashmiri youth were sealed in Shopian district.

The Indian authorities have, so far, seized hundreds of properties across the occupied territory to punish the Kashmiri activists. The headquarters of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Srinagar also remains sealed.

India must stop its ongoing campaign to suppress political activists and intimidate the Kashmiri people. The people of Jammu and Kashmir should be able to freely exercise realize their right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Now, an announcement.

At the invitation of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang of the People’s Republic of China, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif will undertake an official visit to China from 4-8 June 2024.

The visit will have three segments. Besides Beijing, the Prime Minister will visit the cities of Xi’an and Shenzhen.

In Beijing, the Prime Minister will meet President Xi Jinping and hold delegation-level talks with Premier Li Qiang. He will also hold meetings with Chairman, Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Zhao Leji and heads of key government departments.

An important aspect of the Prime Minister’s visit will be meetings with corporate executives of leading Chinese companies dealing in oil and gas, energy, ICT, and emerging technologies. In Shenzhen, he will address the Pakistan-China Business Forum with leading businesspersons, entrepreneurs, and investors from both countries. He will also visit Economic and Agricultural Zones in China.

The Prime Minister’s visit is a manifestation of the iron-clad Pakistan-China friendship characterized by frequent high-level exchanges and dialogue. The two sides will undertake discussions to further strengthen the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership; upgrade China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; advance trade and investment; enhance cooperation in security & defence, energy, space, science & technology, education; and promote cultural cooperation and people-to-people contacts, thus setting the future trajectory of Pakistan-China friendship.

Question and Answers

(Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today): Pakistan has repeatedly informed to the Afghan Interim Government that Afghan soil is being used against Pakistan to carry out terror activities. Does Pakistan think that Afghan Interim Government is helpless against the terror groups who carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan?

Spokesperson: Pakistan and Afghanistan have robust channels of communication, including regarding Pakistan’s serious concerns about the terror threat that Pakistan faces from groups, which have hideouts and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. Yesterday, talks were held at senior official levels and led by Secretary Interior from the Pakistani side and Deputy Minister for Interior from the Afghan side and we have been engaged with each other to ensure that the Afghan territory is not used to create trouble in Pakistan. The Afghan authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to ensure that Afghan territory will not be used against third countries including Pakistan.

(Anas Mallick, Capital TV): Just for clarification on the contradiction that is in there. On the 26th of May, the Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, along with DG NACTA addressed a press conference, where he categorically stated that Pakistan had shared the evidence with regards to the Besham attack and that the perpetrators of the attack were in Afghanistan. Yesterday, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with regards to the visit of the Secretary Interior lays out that the findings were shared yesterday. So, I mean, if you can clarify that were the findings shared yesterday? Was the Interior Minister wrong? When was this information shared? What was the response then? What’s the response now? Thank you.

Spokesperson: I would first not like to interpret what the Minister for Interior has said. He would be in a better position to explain his remarks. I would like to underline that Pakistan has shared its concern with Afghanistan with regards to different terror incidents, including in Besham, at various occasions. Yesterday’s meeting was focused on the terror attack and the Government of Pakistan shared concrete evidence with regards to the Besham attack in yesterday’s meeting between the Interior Secretaries of the two sides [between our Secretary Interior and their Deputy Minister for Interior] and our focus was to request the Afghan side to apprehend the perpetrators in light of the evidence that Pakistan has shared.

(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News): Thank you very much. Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs share the strong exception that Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken on the remarks made by the British High Commissioner at the Asma Jahangir Conference. Does the Foreign Office or the government at large also seek explanation from the UK on its role in dislodging governments in Iran or the creation of Zionist Jewish state by displacing locals as demanded or maintained by the letter of the Supreme Court of Pakistan? Thank you.

(Abdullah Momand, Dawn News): Do you believe the Supreme Court is the relevant forum to respond in such a way to foreign diplomats? What are your views? Thank you.

Spokesperson: So first of all, I would not like to comment on the views of the highest court of land, the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan. However, we do expect the members of the diplomatic corps to follow the diplomatic norms in their engagements and activities inside Pakistan. We hope they will exercise caution in making public comments especially on Pakistan’s domestic matters.

(Imran Waseem, Aik News): Thank you very much, Ma’am. My question is also related to this matter. It is reported that the letter written by the Supreme Court of Pakistan was sent through the Foreign Office. Did the Ministry give any advice to the Supreme Court or was any permission given to the Supreme Court by the Ministry?

(Ijaz Ahmed, GNN): It is becoming normal that diplomats stationed in Pakistan make statements on internal and external affairs of Pakistan. Did the Ministry take notice of these statements and what actions were taken by the Ministry? Are the diplomats allowed to make such comments?

Spokesperson: I am not aware of the advice that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may have given to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is the Supreme Constitutional body. However, I reiterate that Pakistan believes that members of the diplomatic corps should follow diplomatic norms in their engagements and activities in Pakistan, and they should exercise caution in making public comments on Pakistan’s domestic matters.

(Anwar Abbas, 24 News): Ma’am, I want to know about the consular access for two Indians belonging from IIOJK who were spying in Gilgit-Baltistan and were brought to Rawalpindi. So, when did the Ministry receive the request of consular access from India?

Spokesperson: I will not go into details of such communications. However, Pakistan does from time to time arrange consular access for the Indian High Commission to its nationals.

(Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International): Many voices are being raised in solidarity with Palestine and Pakistan has also been a vocal support to Palestine. Recently, China also talked with the Arab heads of states to organize an International Peace Conference. Does Pakistan also plan to co-host such a conference and what will be its contribution?

Spokesperson: Pakistan has been very vocal on its concerns, about the situation in Gaza and the genocide that is taking place here. You may have seen the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday expressing Pakistan’s deep concerns at the situation in Gaza and the recent attacks on civilians in Rafah. Pakistan has always said it will support any initiative that could lead to peace and a ceasefire, an unconditional and immediate ceasefire, to bring relief to the people of Palestine and to ensure that the siege against Gaza is lifted, and humanitarian assistance is provided to the beleaguered people of Palestine.

(Zeeshan Yousafzai, Dunya TV): Madam, it is being reported that America is ready to give loan on Reko Dik project. Was the Ministry contacted regarding this case? On what conditions will America give the loan as the Saudis are also interested in this?

Spokesperson: As you know, SIFC is the relevant forum for discussions and decisions with regards to foreign investment in Pakistan. So, all such investment options are considered in SIFC, and they would be in a better position to respond to your question.

(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News): The intent of asking such a question is since Foreign Ministry deal with external affairs, so this should be taken in that spirit. The heart-breaking events of 1971, they are again in the air and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is being painted as a hero in this country. Obviously, it’s not a question of internal affairs, now Bangladesh is a separate entity and Indian role in dismemberment of Pakistan, as has been confessed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is on the record. So, what is the take of Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this controversy? Thank you so much.

Spokesperson: First, I would not enter into the political debate that is taking place inside Pakistan. These are questions that can be best addressed by political leaders themselves. Pakistan has diplomatic ties with Bangladesh. We believe that we have made a long journey since 1971 and the two countries have good multi-dimensional ties and the people of the two countries have positive sentiments towards each other. We would like to continue to engage with Bangladesh to further develop our relationship and to ensure that our relationship continues to work for the betterment of the people of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

(Ali Hussain, Business Recorder): Ma’am, again on yesterday’s meeting in Kabul, has Pakistan also demanded the Afghan Interim Government to hand over the perpetrators of the March 26 Besham attack? Secondly, is Pakistan considering a full-fledged operation against various terrorist groups inside Pakistan?

Spokesperson: Regarding your first question, yes, the answer is in the affirmative and it was reflected in our press release of last night. Pakistan shared the findings into the Besham attack and sought Afghanistan’s assistance in apprehending the perpetrators. The Afghan side has committed to prevent the use of their soil for any terrorist activity and they have agreed to examine the findings of the investigation and to work with Pakistan to take the investigation to its logical conclusion.

With regards to the action that the Pakistani government and law enforcement agencies take against terror outfits and terrorists inside Pakistan, as you are aware, Pakistan is committed to fighting these terror elements, fighting these terror groups and their sponsors. Law enforcement and security officials have lost lives, and the people of Pakistan have paid a huge sacrifice. So, Pakistan remains committed to fighting these terror elements. With regards to specific details about any specific action, I would advise you to contact the relevant law enforcement authorities.

(Anas Mallick, Capital TV): Thank you so much, ma’am. Two questions. First is with regards to the Ukraine peace summit, which is scheduled to be held in Geneva. Has Pakistan received an invite and if so, will there be Pakistani participation? Number two, the Pakistan and India cricket match is scheduled to be held in New York on the ninth of June. Islamic State Khorasan has publicly threatened with regards to a terror attack. Has Pakistan reached out to the US authorities to ensure safety and security of its national men’s cricket team?

Spokesperson: Regarding your first question. Pakistan has received the invitation to the conference, which is under consideration. Your second question is with regards to the safety of Pakistanis, Pakistani nationals and our cricket team. Our side remains in contact with the local authorities to facilitate the visit of our cricket team to the United States. We expect the government of the US to fully provide security to Pakistan’s cricket team and Pakistani nationals who live in the United States.

(Allah Noor Wazir, Mashriq TV): Ma’am, a few days ago, Corps Commander Conference took place and we received the news from that Conference that Afghan soil is being used against Pakistan to conduct terrorist activities. Previously, DG ISPR in the press conference said that 95 percent of border fence is completed. So, does Pakistan think that Afghanistan is a threat to Pakistan and the world?

Spokesperson: Pakistan believes that terrorism is a threat not just for Afghanistan but for Pakistan and the wider region. It is, therefore, important that action be taken against terror groups and their sponsors so that the people of Afghanistan, the people of Pakistan and people of the wider region live in peace and security.

(Sara Zaman, VOA): Two questions. Number one, I recently, asked Minister Ahsan Iqbal whether Pakistan’s Foreign Office or Foreign Ministry has officially asked Beijing to talk to Kabul about the terror threat that Pakistan faces from Afghan side. So, if you can tell us whether Pakistan has officially asked Beijing to talk to Kabul on Pakistan’s behalf. Secondly, how confident is Pakistan that in this trip of the Prime Minister, Islamabad will be able to satisfy Beijing about the steps that Beijing wants Pakistan to take, about the safety of its nationals in Pakistan, because that’s been a big demand of China to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan?

Spokesperson: Regarding your first question, Pakistan and China have several channels of communication where we continue to discuss all aspects of mutual concern including terrorism. So, these talks continue. I am not in a position to share internal deliberations and privileged diplomatic conversations between Pakistan and its iron brother, China. Pakistan and China have been discussing issues relating to terrorism, relating to security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan. I would like you to refer to the joint statement, which was made during the visit of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr. Ishaq Dar to China just two weeks ago. There was a clear mention. the two sides emphasized that no attempt to undermine Pakistan-China cooperation will ever succeed. The Pakistan side reaffirmed its commitment to hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice, to take more effective security measures and make all-out efforts to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in Pakistan. And the Chinese side recognized Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in combating terrorism over the years. The two sides also agreed to further strengthen cooperation in counterterrorism and security through a comprehensive approach. So, there is already a robust dialogue on terrorism that takes place between Pakistan and China. The two countries have a history of trust and confidence in each other and that makes our communication much more effective and productive.

(Sarah Zaman, VOA): So just wanted to follow up about how confident Pakistan feels that it will be able to satisfy Beijing in this visit that there would be some sort of maybe an acceptance by Beijing that okay, these steps that Pakistan has taken, these are fine and they are willing to send more investment.

Spokesperson: I think I do not agree with the premise of your question. Your question is premised as if China has some doubts in our approach on the issue of terrorism. That is why I read out from our joint statement where the two countries have made a clear public statement how we will work together to combat terrorism. And we have also underlined the fact that no attempt to undermine our cooperation and friendship will ever succeed, whether it is by any terror group or by any other third party. And lastly, Chinese side has recognized Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in combating terrorism over the years.

(Afzal Reza, IRNA): Recently, an incident happened along Pakistan-Iran border. Some local media reported it. If you have any information on that and is there any contact between the two Foreign Offices? And the second question is regarding a statement by Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran, Mr. Muddassar in Tehran who recently said that two borders in Taftan and I think Gabd have become 24/7. So, is there any further plan to open more border crossing between the two countries?

Spokesperson: Thank you. First, the incident that you have mentioned, we believe it took place inside Iranian territory and it was an action against smugglers. So, our border with Iran remains peaceful, and the mechanism of Liaison Officers is fully operational. Pakistan and Iran wish to ensure that the Pakistan-Iran border is a border of peace and friendship. And in that respect, they have agreed to new open border crossings. Two of them are fully operational, but we intend to open more in coming months. Pakistan is committed to close cooperation with Iran to combat threats, such as terrorism, narcotics, smuggling, human trafficking, hostage taking, money laundering and abduction.

(Abdullah Momand, Dawn News): Again, you just announced that Prime Minister is going to China and it has been reportedly claimed by a news, Business Recorder, that Beijing has asked Islamabad to launch operations against BLA. And this has been demanded before a week of Prime Minister’s visit. So, any claims that Beijing asked Islamabad about to launch operation against terrorists? Thank you.

Spokesperson: First of all, I do not wish to comment on media speculation. Secondly, as I said Pakistan and China have robust mechanism of communication, and that includes issues relating to terrorism and provision of security to Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan. We will continue to engage with China in that respect.

(Muddasir Chaudhary, The Destination): Indian leaders and media have bashed Pakistan and Muslims in India during their election campaign, even making propaganda on Greater Hindustan and Pakistan’s internal matters. Comments?

Spokesperson: First, I do not wish to comment on the political campaign in India. The fact is that Indian political leaders consider Pakistan bashing and bashing of Muslims as a winning formula in their elections and that is what we have seen in this election campaign as well. Pakistan rejects these concocted statements, which are definitely politically motivated and are divorced from reality.

(Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today): Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said in an interview that he came to Pakistan in 2015 without visa, he checked the nuclear power of Pakistan. What would you say on his remarks?

Spokesperson: I think no sober observer will take these remarks seriously. And we believe that Indian leaders should exercise caution while commenting on interstate relations and strategic capabilities of Pakistan.

(Kiran Butt, Khorasan Diary): Ma’am four Pakistanis were arrested from Yemen while attempting to smuggle weapons to the Houthis earlier this year. Were they given consular access by the Americans? Any details of their engagement with anyone?

Spokesperson: The two sides remain engaged on that. With regards to investigations, the US Justice Department will have more details. However, Pakistan has expressed its readiness to cooperate in investigations and our side has also been given consular access.

(Khalid Mehmood, Express TV): Indian elections are about to end. What do you predict? How will the Pakistan-India relations be with the new government?

Spokesperson: I have no comments on Indian elections. It is a democratic right of the people of India to vote for their leaders.

(Muddasir Chaudhary, The Destination): People’s Action Committee in Azad Kashmir had recently protested for their demands. Indian media has been using this for propaganda purposes. Your comments please?

Spokesperson: First, there is absolutely no comparison about the situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the people living in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and those living under Indian suppression and occupation in IIOJK. The people of AJK have the democratic rights to express their views publicly, which is not the case in IIOJK where people are living under Indian illegal occupation and oppression for over seven decades. So any commentary from India on the situation in AJK is unwarranted and unacceptable, because they should first focus on providing the rights and freedoms to the people of IIOJK, so that they should also have the right to express their opinion about the conditions that they are living in.

(Anwar Abbas, 24 News): Recently the EU Ambassador in Pakistan Riina Kionka, has made a few comments regarding threats to anchor Absa Komal and then later on Sargodha incident. So how do you see it, the situation? Thank you.

Spokesperson: Online bullying and misogynistic campaign against journalists and public figures is unacceptable. Pakistan has laws in place to protect individuals from cybercrime and cyber-bullying. We hope that the European Union would be as vocal about the rights of journalists who are facing restrictions in reporting on developments in Gaza and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the double standards that are being witnessed on freedom of expression in many countries in Europe.

Second question was on Sargodha? They have commented on it?

Anwar Abbas: Yes.

Spokesperson: The incident in Sargodha is very unfortunate. Pakistan remains fully committed to promoting and protecting human rights for all its citizens. We also appreciate the law enforcement authorities, which took effective action to protect our minority community members. The law of the land will prevail and perpetrators will be brought to account. Protection of religious minorities in Pakistan is a priority for us and we do not need advice from others to fulfil our constitutional obligations.